The Idea Idearum in Newman and Bouyer

By Keith Lemna
December 16, 2021
26 min read
The Idea Idearum in Newman and Bouyer

An important theological theme in the Christian tradition is that of the divine ideas or logoi in the mind or Word of God by which God knows and loves in himself eternally all the ways that creatures can or do participate in a living likeness of him. This doctrine is an ancient one, flowing from the confluence of the patristic reading of John’s Gospel, from the influence of the ambient Platonic and Stoic schools of philosophy in the early centuries of the church, and from the need to clarify the specifically Christian understanding of the creation of the world. It was developed in the Christian East from the time of the Alexandrian theologians in the third century to that of Saint Maximus the Confessor in the seventh, who summed up this Eastern tradition with his philosophy of logoi in the Logos united in God’s eternal plan for all things centered on the Incarnation. The doctrine of ideas was crucial for many theologians in the West as well, including both Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas, who held, in line with a common, traditional interpretation of Saint John’s Gospel, that the likeness or idea of the creature in the Divine Word is “the very life of the creature itself.”[1]

The doctrine of divine ideas was not an uncommon presence in Catholic theology in the first half of the twentieth century, but it fell into desuetude thereafter. Of course, since the time of the rise of nominalism in the early modern age, it had always been an uneasy fit with the prejudices and preferences of modern life and thought taken as a whole, and it was not always a welcome presence in Catholic theology. For the doctrine to be embraced as a meaningful dimension of theology and spiritual practice, one must see creation as the expression of the Divine Thought and Wisdom of God, showing forth, in accordance with its finite capacity, the luminous, glorious intelligence of God’s Mind, whose ideas for all things therein can be received by human intelligence only through a human share in his Uncreated Light. According to the tradition of divine ideas, God makes himself known to us by the power of our limited share in this light through the intelligible signs of his presence in nature, through his divine speech directly communicated by his Word in sacred scripture, and ultimately in his definitive “bodying forth” in the Incarnation of the Son as the axial locus of salvation history. Christians had long recognized that everything in creation is a pointer to the Incarnate Son of God, but this traditional way of seeing the world and its history was no longer possible for many people in the modern period, increasingly drawn as they were into utilitarian, instrumental approaches to things that detach them from their symbolic meaning as creatures of God expressive of the Divine Thought.

The via moderna of nominalism, formulated in the early modern period with exacting rigor by the English Franciscan friar and theologian William of Ockham (1287–1347), naturalized human reason, no longer seeing it as illuminated by God’s ideas. This naturalization became a fundamental characteristic of most subsequent modern thought, including Baconian and Hobbesian empiricism in the English-speaking world. Yet, there emerged, in the very era of Hobbes, a counter tradition of Anglophone empiricism, a “spiritual empiricism”[2] that strongly resisted the nominalist tendency both to do away with all concepts of divine illumination and to separate the physical universe from its sacramental-symbolical significance in reference to the divine ideas. This alternative modern tradition began with the Cambridge Platonists of the seventeenth century and continued with the Oxford Platonists of the eighteenth. It influenced, however indirectly, the writings of John Henry Newman and, in turn, those of one of his most devoted twentieth-century students, the French Oratorian priest and theologian Louis Bouyer (1913–2004), who uncovered the presence of this alternative empiricism in Newman’s thought, the fundamental themes of which he traced back to the inspiration of Saint Augustine of Canterbury. These two Oratorians are arguably the greatest, most comprehensive spokespersons for modern spiritual empiricism, which is simultaneously a Christian idealism or doctrine of divine ideas. Their intimately related approaches to the ideas are a needed coordinate for helping to guide theologians and philosophers in our own day, when Anglophone thought is newly open to an endless array of ontological options, from the continued presence of the most brutally, mercilessly self-consistent expressions of mechanistic philosophy in the eliminativist materialisms of recent decades that remain in play, to surprisingly—and in my estimation welcomely—resurgent ancient and modern idealisms of both Eastern and Western patrimony. In this situation of dizzying metaphysical pluralism, we find ourselves fractured regarding the thought of what might hold us together as a society in pursuit of a common purpose. This fracturing is untenable in the long run, but it provides a tremendous opportunity to propose anew the “Christian Idea” as a source of unity, not by presenting it as a mere wellspring for brilliant, abstract concepts or, much worse, by wielding it as a coercive ideology, but by setting forth its promise for living encounter with God’s eternal love in the person of his Incarnate Word.

In an early article on Newman, his foremost theological and spiritual guide—“Newman et le platonisme de l’âme anglaise” (1936)—Bouyer spelled out how the ancient, Christian Platonist doctrine of divine ideas was fruitfully advanced by Anglophone thought, and by Newman himself, as a counter to the standard mechanism of growingly-dominant modern scientific and technological appropriations of the world. Bouyer read Newman from a young age and was always especially taken by what Newman described in his Apologia as his “mystical or sacramental principle.”[3] This principle refers in great part to the philosophical vision shared by the Alexandrian Fathers, who maintained that “the exterior world, physical and historical, was but the outward manifestation of realities greater than itself,” and who insisted that both nature and scripture were “parable” and “allegory” that communicate the Mystery of the Divine Word.[4] The English Oratorian and his French devotee both embraced and articulated this patristic sacramental principle, with due regard for modern historical consciousness. The sacramentality of their shared vision entails an exemplarist doctrine of ideas, and although Bouyer spelled out this exemplarism in a way that goes far beyond Newman, I suggest here three broad points of influence in which Newman nevertheless helped Bouyer to recover the Christian doctrine of ideas in its very exemplarism, centering the meaning and intelligibility of all things on the person of Jesus Christ the eternal Logos Incarnate, the Idea Idearum who is the life and light of all people.

The first point of influence has to do with the concept of a sacramental analogy according to which there is an intrinsic kinship or interlinking of all things in creation and history grounded in the unity of God’s eternal, creative design for the universe. Newman developed this concept in his Arians of the Fourth Century and in his Apologia. It was in the former text that he expounded the Alexandrian theologians, sympathetically articulating their view according to which the totality of history is “the external garb of prophecy,” its decisive personages and facts, wherever they are found, “the figures of heavenly things.”[5] He argued that the Alexandrians affirmed the singularity of the economy of the Incarnation of Christ as the summit of the unique history of God’s chosen people, reaching back to Abraham, the father of faith, but understood all the same that the totality of history is a unified whole knit together, however loosely or incomprehensibly, by disparate divine dispensations or Godly “condescensions to the infirmity and peculiarity of our minds.”[6] The Alexandrians thought in terms of degrees of divine unveiling which included a “pagan dispensation,” indicative of “the Divinity of Paganism.”[7] Newman argued that these early Christian philosophers held that God is always at work in history preparing humanity for its definitive encounter with him in the Incarnation of his Word, and that history as meaningful praeparatio reaches back to the furthest bounds of human existence in the mists of its immemorial past. Even the phenomena of the physical world point to their source in the one who is both Creator and Redeemer and can be counted under the designations “dispensation” and “economy.”

Newman adopted in general fashion this Alexandrian understanding, but his own “Christian Platonism” was initially inspired by Joseph Butler’s Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed (1736). In his Apologia, he describes two decisive motifs that he took from Butler’s book that he later developed in his own way:

“First, the very idea of an analogy between the separate works of God leads to the conclusion that the system which is of less importance is economically or sacramentally connected with the more momentous system, and of this conclusion the theory, to which I was inclined as a boy, viz. the unreality of material phenomena, is an ultimate resolution. At this time I did not make the distinction between matter itself and its phenomena, which is so necessary and so obvious in discussing the subject. Secondly, Butler’s doctrine that Probability is the guide of life, led me, at least under the teaching to which a few years later I was introduced, to the question of the logical cogency of Faith.”[8]

The first idea mentioned is the “sacramental analogy” I have been discussing. However, the doctrine took a specifically modern form in Butler and in the spiritual empiricism of Oxbridge Platonism because it was shaped in this tradition by the context of its critique of the materialism of Hobbesian empiricism with its “theology of the double truth,” which ultimately dismissed the human need for a holistic, religious grasp of the meaning of nature and history. The Hobbesian tradition barricaded the natural world from its transcendent, religious, or divine referent, segregating the separate works of God and pushing religion thereby to the inessential margins of human life. English Platonism insisted against this irreligious tendency that human experience is fundamentally an openness to religious and spiritual depths of meaning without which our basic experience is incomprehensible. Humanity cannot rest satisfied with the parceling off of the works of God, whether these be in nature or divine revelation. Our most fundamental perceptions of the world in our quotidian existence are blind without recognition of the intrinsic reference of material realities to immaterial, intelligible meanings or ideas, which are communicated to us through historical dispensations of divine unveiling in symbol and shadow. History and nature are intertwined. Matter is incomprehensible without idea, and the giving of the idea is both through divine illumination and God’s inseparable economic interventions in nature and history.[9]

In Oxford University Sermon 15, Newman suggested that “the whole series of impressions, made on us through the senses, be … but a Divine economy suited to our need, and the token of realities suited to our need, and the token of realities distinct from themselves.”[10] He proposes in this passage a form of empiricism that is foreign to our usual understanding of the term. He suggests that the totality of our sense impressions, through which we come to know anything that we know, point to higher realities and ultimately to a divine source, but only as God reveals himself in accordance with our natural limitations and historically conditioned, ever-developing capacities and needs. Newman suggested further on in this passage that even our scientific ideas, so often presumed by moderns to be the paradigm of absolute objectivity attained by human reason operating by its own light, are the result of our practical conceptions of material properties, themselves historically-situated, which is to say that they are only pragmatically true inasmuch as they are useful within the context of the particular models or systems of thought that they serve in specific times or places but not true in an absolute sense. Only the encompassing viewpoint provided by religious practice can give full perspective on the place of scientific achievement in the total context of humanity’s differentiated cultural endeavors.[11]

Newman’s vision of the meaningful character of the material world and history in its various dispensations, with all things ultimately, intrinsically referencing their ideal meaning however much through a glass darkly, was decisive for Bouyer, who saw its inner connection with the idealism of George Berkeley. Berkeley once said, in words that evoke Bouyer’s theology of ideas, that “All objects are eternally known by God, or which is the same thing, have an eternal existence in his mind: but when things before imperceptible to creatures, are by a decree of God, made perceptible to them; then are they said to begin a relative existence, with respect to created minds.”[12] Embracing what we might call a Berkeleyan exemplarism that took account of the polarity of ideas as both absolute in God and relative to human perception in history, Bouyer worked out in his writings a spiritually empiricist, sacramentally pragmatic vision of the universe as God’s thoughtful plan in historical development. He did so especially fully in a nine-volume treatise on dogmatic theology produced over the course of four decades, beginning in 1957 with a book on Mariology, The Seat of Wisdom, and ending in 1994 with an incisive book on sophiology, Sophia: le Monde en Dieu. The logic of sacramental analogy and economy, of a kind of unfolding of the meaning of the divine ideas on our behalf, is a conceptual underpinning of these texts. Bouyer associated the Newmanian doctrine of analogy with the theology of Wisdom that especially emerged in the combined writings of Russian theologians Vladimir Soloviev, Pavel Florensky, and Sergei Bulgakov, which he knew about from the time he was a young scholar through acquaintance with Bulgakov in Paris in the 1930s and 1940s. These Russians distinguished the Divine Wisdom of God eternally present in the Trinitarian life from a Wisdom of creation, “fleshing out” (as it were) the meaning of this distinction as made early in the Christian tradition by Saint Athanasius and Saint Augustine in the wake of the Arian crisis of the fourth century. But Newman had already pointed to the patristic roots of the distinction between Divine and Created Wisdom in An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.[13] In doing so, he helped Bouyer to grasp the embedding of Russian sophiology in a larger Christian tradition of divine ideas that encompasses both East and West. If the English Oratorian initiated his French admirer into the spiritual and conceptual riches of the interpretive motif of the sacramental analogy of creation, he also helped to orient his research in a sophiological direction. The first initiation led Bouyer to see that

“the material, physical world cannot be separated from an invisible, essentially ‘intelligible,’ spiritual world. The material world is, so to speak, the common irradiation of this spiritual world as far as concerns the first-born sprits, the angels; from it the human mind emerges and finds within it not only its medium of communication, but also the awakening of its consciousness. This world, wherein the intelligible and the sensible form a single tapestry, is but a single thought of God. It is eternally present in Him and projected in time and simultaneously in the distinct existence of other consciousnesses.”[14]

The second Newmanian initiation just referenced deepened this sacramental understanding of things not only along sophiological but Trinitarian lines: “Later on I would come to recognize it [the world] as the projection of a Wisdom of creation outside of the eternal Word, animated by the divine Spirit who, at the same time, urges it to return to this filial Word to espouse it and come back up with it, in the same Spirit, to the Father, as if in an eternal Eucharist.”[15]

To render the sacramentality of creation and history in sophiological terms is a deeply personalistic thing to do, and Bouyer insisted that personalism is precisely what separates Christian exemplarism—whether in the Church Fathers or the modern English Platonists—from pagan philosophers who spoke of forms and ideas. This reference to personalism brings me to my second broader point of consideration regarding the influence of Newman on Bouyer’s doctrine of divine ideas, which is that he helped Bouyer to see the centering of the sacramental analogy of creation on the personal Divine Word as Idea Idearum. I have already made this connection, but I want now to spell out further what it means.

When Newman spoke theologically of “ideas” or the “idea” it was largely to do with divine revelation carried and developed in the church through the ages as “idea.” On at least one occasion, he defined his use of the term. “An idea,” he said, is “a view, an invisible object, which does not admit of more or less, a form, which cannot coalesce with anything else, an intellectual principle, expanding into a consistent harmonious whole,—in short, Mind, in the true sense of the word.”[16] In Oxford University Sermon 15 and in An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, Newman explained that divine revelation is an idea that is given to the mind of the church as a living, comprehensive, unified reality, a vivifying intelligibility that moves the faithful to continuous study and contemplation of divine truth, the study of which forms the basis for doctrinal development. God, on this understanding, gives us a single, internally unified, enlivening idea of himself, and it is around this idea that all our separate theological, doctrinal ideas center as aspects of this one great Idea. Ultimately, Christ is himself this Idea of ideas, as Avery Dulles explained: “The constant and essential element of Christianity, for Newman, is the image or idea of Christ, which Christ himself, through his preachers and witnesses, imprints on the minds of the faithful.”[17]

In the wider Christian tradition, the divine ideas are not only impressions of reflection in the human mind but exemplary causes in the divine mind. Yet, they are not as such an eternally preset mathematical pattern that is subsequently placed onto the grid of the world. Instead, they are determinate and volitional, referring primarily to God’s living plan for all things in their concrete destiny, encompassing in their intelligibility the vital freedom of the creature. Going beyond Newman’s explicit texts, Bouyer clarified that the divine ideas are precisely “in” the Wisdom of the Word. However, he maintained that at the center of this Divine Wisdom is the mystery of the living Christ given to us for our salvation in the determinations of our existential history. The mystery of Christ is the fleshly heart, if I may put it thus, of the thoughtful plan that God has always carried in himself in his Word for our redemption in “foreknowledge” of the actualized trajectory of human sin and fallenness. Bouyer emphasized that the Pauline mystery from 1 Corinthians and Ephesians sums up the Father’s Wisdom for creation in the sending of his Son by the power of the Spirit so that we might enjoy filial adoption in him. The doctrine of divine ideas has to do with our eternal call to sonship in the divine model, the living Word. God’s idea for creation is about theosis or deification, the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation having as its goal our coming to live in him by our embrace of his cross. Bouyer gave explicit credit to Newman for helping him to connect the Christian view of God’s eternal plan for creation with the mystery of Jesus Christ. He claimed that because Newman centered his thinking on this eternal mystery he can be properly understood to have been a “mystic” in the sense meant by the Cappadocian Fathers: “Let us understand that the whole of Christian faith, for Newman as for them, is centered upon our apprehension by faith of the mystery of Christ, seen, according to the doctrine of Saint Paul, as the mystery of His Cross, leading to His glorification and our own in Him.”[18]

Salvation is theosis. We return to God in God through being joined to the incarnate Son by our embrace of his humiliation on the cross, sharing thereby in the glory of his Resurrection and Ascension. We thus cannot be said to enter the world of the divine ideas by escaping from the material plane or by running away from suffering. We do so by living union with our source in the flesh of his Incarnate Son, joining him on his path to Calvary. I am speaking here of elements of the theology of the Paschal Mystery, and it was Bouyer who brought the expression “Paschal Mystery,” so crucial to the Second Vatican Council, to the fore in Catholic thought with his 1945 book by that title. The inspiration Newman provided in the formation of his thought around this theme is clear, especially through his reading and re-reading of the Parochial and Plain Sermons, the significance of which he amply demonstrated in his late book Newman’s Vision of Faith.

Bouyer explicitly affirms the exemplarist doctrine that ideas or logoi for creatures exist eternally in the divine Logos, but his idealism maintains a Newmanian, existentialist emphasis. The logoi in the Logos are involved “in the whole history of their development in time, led by Providence, and through the Incarnation of the one Logos in their common flesh, to their final gathering and freely accepted reunion of all in and with Himself.”[19] The ideas are realized only with respect to the actualization of finite, personal freedoms in history. This actualization is not only the perfecting of individuals, each individual rightly taken as a singular thought of God, but by the filling in of the “supernatural society” of the church. The “common flesh” of humanity is drawn together in the Logos, because the body of Christ is not only the individual human body of the Son but the flesh of all human beings freely gathered into God’s unity of life in the Son in his return to the Father. For Bouyer, Christology and ecclesiology are inseparable, a point which he established in his dissertation on Saint Athanasius.[20] He considered Newman’s thinking to be in full alignment with this ecclesiocentric, Alexandrian Christology. Newman insisted that theosis begins in this age, that in baptism we are as individuals hidden with Christ in God, but to be hidden with Christ in God is for each of us to be joined together as one in him, to have entered into the sacramental world of the church, the body of Christ, which is “just this world, the world of nature, restored to its primitive transparency for Christians, for believers, in expectation of its total re-creation in Christ’s second coming.”[21]

I want to turn now to the third point of Newman’s influence on Bouyer with respect to the theology of the ideas, this one having to do with the former’s embrace of Joseph Butler’s doctrine of probability as “the guide of life,” the second key point from the Analogy mentioned above.[22] The two aforementioned doctrines from the Analogy are deeply, mutually implicated, the first unveiling the reality of both the world and sacred scripture as a personal communication coming from one and the same ultimate source and the second drawing out practical consequences of this unveiling. The first recognizes the fundamentally personal character of the world and the second the epistemological consequences that should follow. Butler’s rule of probability entails that we can only grasp the intrinsic intelligibility of the world by way of personal acquaintanceship with it, and, finally, by acquaintanceship with the Word who speaks it into being. The only sort of rationality appropriate to the world such as it is in its ontological depths is decidedly non-rationalistic, an expansive reason that embraces mystery, which Bouyer, for his part, insisted should privilege imagination and mythopoetic thinking. A type of sacramental, hermeneutical approach to things is called for in order to grasp them as pointers to the invisible, personal, superessential source of their existence.

The two Oratorians draw out this shared understanding in vast cosmic and eschatological perspectives. We have seen that Newman thinks of the totality of our sense impressions as God’s economic communication to us. They are divine, personal communications fitted to our capacities and needs. An entailment of this position is that all human life, all human cultural effort, all science, art, philosophy, literature, poetry, music, etc., are caught up in the mystery of God’s showing forth of his design for us in accordance with our capacity to receive it. It is a progressive unveiling, pointing to eschatological plenitude, and the work of human interpretation. Even properly humanistic development—in the arts and sciences, for example—should contribute toward readying us for this full unveiling. Both Oratorians understand that the totality of human endeavor should be ordered to the goal of preparation. Bouyer puts this understanding in sophiological optic. He reads the evolution of creation in its totality as the free unfolding of creaturely wisdom, which will be at length personalized in the eschatological church when “the final glorification of the Creation will be fully realized.”[23] This free unfolding of Wisdom, perfected through the dramatic, often agonistic, interplay of divine, angelic, and human liberties, is the realization of God’s ideas for things in their perfected personalization in communion, when heart will at last speak to heart without impediment or palisade. All of creation, the totality of cosmogenesis, “big history,” is a preparation for personal union with God. It is a preparation for communion with life in the “other world,” the invisible, intelligible, personal world of God, the angels, and his saints. Each individual human life must be made ready and ready itself for existence in this other world, which is not just a world above us but the world of the eschatological future, when heaven and earth will be joined in the “coming day of the Lord,” the final day, “when all this outward world, fair though it be, shall perish.”[24] Without the proper preparation, we shall not be able to bear this other world. We are not automatically and inevitably, by virtue of our created nature, able to enjoy existence within it, in the direct sight of God. It would not be too much to say, in this perspective, that the vastness of space-time is itself fitted in its immense proportions to serve as the precondition for the readying of human persons for eschatological encounter with the Creator. Even if Newman does not himself develop the sophiological theme, he shares with his French follower a vision of the unity of purpose not only of human society and history but of the meaning of the cosmos in the totality of its otherwise seemingly meaningless processes, the largeness of which boggles the mind. God’s work in the world is from the beginning a form of economic pedagogy, and he is preparing the world and history over the eons to shed its visible shell, so that on the last day its veil may be removed, and the world not-yet-seen manifested in glorious splendor, the elect of God having been made ready—individually and all together—to behold this divine world’s definitive showing forth.

The mystery of existence in all its aspects is the mystery of our transformative encounter with the divine author of all things whereby we are made ready for eschatological existence. Both Oratorians emphasized that we must be made personally fit for this encounter. The realization of the idea in us requires our transformation in holiness. We must be made holy as the Heavenly Father is holy, which is to say that we must allow ourselves by the gift of God’s love to love as he does. The Christian doctrine of ideas promotes conformity to the divine model in filial adoption by way of our self-surrender to the Son through the love of his Spirit. The whole point of the eternal, divine design for us in the mind of God is our perfection in holiness by God’s perfecting of his own charity in us. Only in this way can we fully come to know and to attain truth. To be genuine interpreters or mystagogues of the analogy, to be attainers of truth, we must not only come to know God but to love him in the surpassing selflessness of his own personal love. Moreover, Christian love is not only love of God but love of everything that he loves—which is everything that is—precisely as he loves, with a love “which delights in loving just for loving’s sake.”[25] To see things as they are, to interpret them aright, to commune in speech and mind with them in accordance with God’s idea for us and for them, we must learn to love them as God does. If we are to propose the Christian idea anew, as I suggested above, it must be in accordance with this logic of charity. The conjoined thinking of our Oratorians helps us to orient our intellectuality toward the mystery of this divine logic eternally personalized as the person of the Logos in our union with him in his Spirit.

I should hardly have to state at this point my admiration for the sacramental analogy and concomitant doctrine of ideas which the Oratorians have bequeathed to us as part of a living tradition that each of them advanced in his own way. Despite their individual particularities—Bouyer, for instance, drawing out the Trinitarian exemplarism of the ideas in sophiological fashion that goes far beyond Newman’s explicit texts—theirs is a common vision of the world in history that our age desperately needs to encounter in a new light, fragmented and divided as it is, seemingly operating without a clue as to the very possibility that there can be enduring intelligibility, divine ideas, a transcendent divine thought for things, let alone an Idea Idearum or unified goal and purpose for the cosmos-at-large, that is anything more than a human construct inevitably doomed to collapse under the weight of human greed, pride, and lust. The Oratorians offer a “spiritual empiricism” that is by definition open to the properly religious depth of meaning that can alone make sense of the unity of our experience as well as of our historical vocation. They invite us to direct our attention ultimately to the Idea Idearum, who perfects in loving union the invisible, ideal plane and the empirical, material plane in his Incarnation and, finally, in his second coming, when he shall at last wed the church to himself as his eschatological bride and return with it in his bosom to the Father, in the perfect unity of the divine life that is perpetually sealed by the Holy Spirit’s personal gift of love.

[1] Thomas Aquinas, De Veritate, trans. Robert W. Mulligan, SJ (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1954), 4.8, reply, p. 199. See John 1:3–4: “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.”

[2] Cf., Louis Dupré, “Newman and the Neoplatonic Tradition,” Newman and the Word, ed. Terrence Merrigan and Ian T. Kerr (Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdman’s, 2000), 137–54, at 137, and 150. On page 137, Dupré refers to a “spiritual empiricism that assumed … that there must be an experience of God.” On page 150, he describes Newman’s epistemological position as a “‘radical’ empiricism, that is, in William James’s sense of a theory, that includes spiritual experience.” He notes that this position is in fact more Augustinian than empiricist.

[3] Louis Bouyer, “Newman and English Platonism,” Monastic Studies 1, no. 11 (1963): 285–305, quoted by Bouyer from Newman’s Apologia, chapter one. This article is a translation of Bouyer’s 1936 study.

[4] Bouyer, “Newman and English Platonism.”

[5] Newman, Ari (New York: Longman’s, Green, and Co. 1890), I.III, 58.

[6] Newman, Ari, 75.

[7] Newman, Ari, 73.

[8] Newman, Apo (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1890), 21. See Louis Bouyer, Newman: His Life and Spirituality (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011), 76–79. In these pages, Bouyer discusses Butler’s influence on Newman.

[9] Cf., Mark McIntosh, “Newman and Christian Platonism in Britain,” The Journal of Religion 91, no. 3 (July 2011): 344–64, at 349. See also Dupré, 142–43.

[10] Newman, US 15, section 40.

[11] Bouyer noted a congruency between Newman and Wittgenstein in this regard. See Louis Bouyer, “The Permanent Relevance of Newman,” Newman Today. Papers Presented at a Conference Sponsored by the Wethersfield Institute (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), 165–74. Bouyer says: “like Wittgenstein, he [Newman] underlines the fact that there are different views of the world which simply correspond to different practical approaches to reality. According to different angles of vision implied, they may appear to be contradictory at first sight, while in truth they are simply complementary … some may be more ‘englobing’ than others, without being substituted for them. And this appears to be the case, eminently, for an authentic religious view of the world, compared to either a scientific or merely philosophical approach.”

[12] George Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, ed. Jonathan Dancy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), section 66, 127.

[13] See Newman, Dev, 4.2.8.

[14] Louis Bouyer, Memoirs: From Youth and Conversion to Vatican II, trans. John Pepino (Kettering, OH: Angelico Press, 2015), 55.

[15] Bouyer, Memoirs, 56.

[16] Newman, My Campaign in Ireland (1850), 250, quoted in Avery Dulles, “From Images to Truth: Newman on Revelation and Faith,” Theological Studies, 51 (1990): 252–67, at 253n7.

[17] Dulles, “From Images to Truth: Newman on Revelation and Faith,” 254–55.

[18] Louis Bouyer, Newman’s Vision of Faith (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 157.

[19] Louis Bouyer, “An Introduction to the Theme of Wisdom and Creation in the Tradition,” Le Messager Orthodoxe 98 (1985): 149–61, at 156.

[20] L’Incarnation et l’Êglise : Corps du Christ dans la Théologie de Saint Athanase (Paris: Cerf, 1943).

[21] Bouyer, Newman’s Vision of Faith, 168.

[22] Newman, Apo, 21.

[23] Bouyer, “An Introduction to the Theme of Wisdom in the Tradition,” 150. Bouyer directly associates this understanding with that of Newman.

[24] Bouyer, Newman’s Vision of Faith, 90. Quoted from Newman’s sermon “The Invisible World,” in PS (London: Longman’s, Green, and Co, 1891), 210.

[25] Bouyer, Newman’s Vision of Faith, 23.

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Keith Lemna

Keith Lemna

Associate Professor, Saint Meinrad Seminary

Dr. Lemna is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology. He is the author of The Apocalypse of Wisdom: Louis Bouyer's Theological Recovery of the Cosmos, with Angelico Press, a 2020 Catholic Press Association book award winner in the category of theological and philosophical studies, and the forthcoming The Trinitarian Wisdom of God: Louis Bouyer's Theology of the God-World Relationship, with Emmaus Academic Press.


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